What is a pilgrimage I often ask myself ? Is it a journey to a destination of religious and spiritual significance or is it something more. I went on a few pilgrimages with my grand mother during my growing up years and it was all about piling into a rickety bus with a bunch of old women pounding away on their beads with the name of god. After a few hours of jerks and bumps, it would be a relief to alight in front of a temple or mela to watch frenzied men and women taking dips in the river and prostrating in front of the idol. Some were doing it with hope and some in gratitude but the number of people in hope, asking and demanding far outnumbered the ones bowing in gratitude. Utterly confused, I joined the queue with my list of demands too pledging some part of my pocket money. Some demands were answered and some were not and I often wonder whether I should have pledged a little more to get my demand fulfilled :).
Several years and many spiritual and life’s lessons later I realised that a pilgrimage is actually not about a shrine or an idol, it is an inner journey of meeting oneself and every trek into the mountains just leads to that.
1.Silencing the inner chatter: In the lap of nature, with an unpredictable bend at every step, sometimes walking alone, sometimes in a group, the inner chatter quietly dissolves leading to moments of thoughtlessness. The thoughtless mind has no option but to experience the moment and experience infinite natural beauty around which evokes the beauty within.
2.Acceptance and Surrender: It is a lesson in embracing adversity and willingly surrendering to the divine with complete trust that whatever ensues will be the best path. In essence, the divine will work to fulfill our innermost desires.
3.Forgiving: Unknown to us, we often nurture hurt, anger and regret which leads to physical ailments since we are not forgiving of others and ourselves. While trekking through treacherous terrains, many incidents that you have held on to will appear petty and meaningless and unconscious forgiving will be triggered which will lead to conscious forgiveness. With every step in forgiveness, we move a step towards healing.
4.Overcoming Ego: While walking through difficult terrain, often times that one question will pop!! Who am I? Am I this body, Am I a collection of thoughts housed in this body or am I a part of this earth !! We will soon lose our sense of self importance and merge ourselves into the earth.
5.Overcoming Fear: Fear is a silent killer and what better than a trek in the mountains to feel blessed about this life and realize that death is inevitable and will occur when it has to and wishing it way by thinking about it will only affect our metabolic system.
6.Gratitude: Treks will also be long days of gratitude. Every morsel will be laced with gratitude to be able to find food and water in difficult terrains. Back in the plains you will not take anything for granted.
7. Mindfulness: High up in the mountains, walking on thin ground, indulging in a tango with distracting thoughts is a luxury better left behind. The answer to survive is simple and straight, to be mindful and present. The goals will be short and simple, to cross the next pass ahead with not much thought for the future. All the physical and mental pain and fear will wash away filling us with steely grit and determination.
8. Humility: Every trek is a lesson in humility, a reminder not to challenge nature but to bow down and accept the lessons from this greatest teacher. It will be a lesson not to judge any individual but to accept that every action has a story, every person has a story to live for and a journey to experience. All we need is to wait patiently for destiny to reveal.
9. Equality: A trek unites people across all ages and cultural identities. Be open and you will experience life through the porter, the helper or the kind cook who doled out delicious food. The best things in life like the warm sunlight, the starry sky, the rippling stream are free for all-Nature does not discriminate on the basis of caste and creed then why should we do that as humans.
10.Living in the Now: A trek will teach us to live in the present, cultivate infinite acceptance and patience and be happy and content with what we have. Strangely, we will learn to live with little and shed extra baggage that just weighs us down. Well it is true for the trek bag as well as all the negativity that we hold on to in life !!
At the end of the trek, you are sure to meet yourself whether in whole or in part. It is a untold pilgrimage that will slowly transform your life. After a holy pilgrimage my old neighbors across the balcony were happy to have achieved a feat in life and flaunted good health as a blessing from the divine. I smiled at their stories and thought of this post as I offered a handful of grains to the pigeons who come by to visit me every morning !!